The Meek Valley Incident: Part 11
Hello! The day one-more-thing'ed me all the way to after dinner without realizing all the hours were almost gone. Saved by the global time zone! It's still Saturday here lol.
The past couple of days have been a rush for getting things done. Mostly because I've wanted to, and also because I've had the spoons lately. Tomorrow will be another story (three busy days in a row is about my maximum), but the points tally of me against chores has been a clean sweep for me this week. Vacuuming, bathrooms, tidying, and some much needed wall patching and painting on the back landing are my wins this week. Not a bad score considering both kids are home on Fall break.
I didn't get too much writing done, but had a few hours here and there I was able to dedicate to my keyboard before the chore days happened. A much needed scene was added to my big manuscript (in both senses of "need" because I needed it out of my head and the story sorely needed to have it), plus I got in some time on a couple of scene expansions and some editing.
Overall it's been a good week for me, and I hope you're staying safe and healthy too. Have a good weekend!
11. Making Steam
“What are you trying to do?” Justin asked when her brother’s encouragement left Tam silently fuming.
“Usually we make these in the spring when the branches are green so they’ll bend.” She drew a curve with her finger around the wide end of the triangle. “But with them being frozen… right now they’ll just break if I try.” She huffed a sigh and dropped the triangle so she could stretch her hands.
Justin picked up the dropped branch and peeled back some of the bark. Ice inside proved it was wet enough for bending, if he had a steam box. He untied the branches from their triangle as he thought about the supplies he had. They had water and fire, so he could easily have steam, but no way to evenly contain it. The branches were saturated from the wet winter, and only as thick as his thumb at most, so maybe heating them over steam would work well enough that they wouldn’t dry out and break for what Tam was saying she needed. They were small, so he could probably manipulate them without clamps once they were softened…
“What are you thinking?” Tam interrupted his thoughts. Tor was watching him, too, when Justin looked up from where he’d started peeling the bark off the branch in his hand.
“I can try bending these, if you want?” Justin answered her with a question. “I think it could work if we steam them. If not, at least we’d have tea.”
“Was that a joke?” Tor asked before Tam could reply. “About the tea – did you just make a joke? As in, you actually are capable of humor?”
Justin stared at him, suddenly self-conscious, and Tor beamed a smile back.
“Ouch!” Tor exclaimed, his tone mocking, one of the smallest of the branches Tam had brought into the burrow bouncing off his shoulder after being thrown into the side of his head.
“Get the blanket unravelled,” she ordered her brother. “Don’t you need a box for steaming?” she asked Justin.
“Yeah,” Justin replied, grinning at their ongoing fighting as he turned back to peeling the bark. “We don’t have time to make one. Steaming just the part for the bend might work, though.”
“What about these?” she asked after a glance around the burrow. Justin and Tor both looked to where she was pointing at Justin’s two straight swords nearby. The blades were wide and flat, as were the scabbards. Unfortunately, the branches she’d brought back were all longer than the full lengths of the swords.
“Too short,” he said, dismissing the idea. Even using both her swords to square the box to steam one or two branches at a time, and wrapping it all in a blanket to insulate, it wouldn’t work properly if they couldn’t get an open box at the end opposite the water to allow steam on the full length of the wood.
She reached over and turned one sword to face the opposite direction, then pulled each blade three quarters of the way out of the scabbards. “Would it be long enough now?”
The wolves left as the steaming started. It took a couple of tries to get the bending pressure application and finished curve right, and Tam had to go back out in the storm for more branches, but they were able to eat their small, final meal as the last branch was cooling. Justin spliced the bent pieces like tiny masts, and Tam bound them in place with the unwoven cord so the branches couldn’t spring back while they were cooling.
After eating, Tor took apart the impromptu steam box, hung the blanket to dry, and then started drying and cleaning the blades and scabbards. Once she finished eating, Tam went back to weaving tightly strung nets into the frames she and Justin had made. When Justin was done his meal, he picked up the icicles that he’d been holding before eating.
“Those burns starting to feel any better?” Tor asked after a few minutes.
“They’re starting to feel numb again,” Justin replied. Rather than focusing on himself and the few small burns on his palms, he turned to watch what Tam was doing. “Why a net?” he finally asked, actually curious.
“If it’s solid, the snow gets on top and weights your steps,” she shrugged, her fingers moving almost too quickly to see the individual motions of the twists and knots. “That makes it just as hard to walk as it would be without the snowshoes, or harder. A net lets the loose snow through but still packs the snow underneath to hold enough weight to keep us on top. Sinews work the best – the snow doesn’t stick as badly as it will to these cords – but these will work for the two hours we’ll need them. They’ll have good snowshoes at the mine.”
As had been the topic of conversation whenever they had time to converse, Tor began listing off the details of the mine’s layout. Half of it was an open pit, and the other half was made up of tunnels bored into the base of a mountain with their entrances on one side of the pit’s bottom. There were guard posts set in a ring around the top of the pit – one at about every ten draughtsides – and a small town for the guards and their families was on the opposite side of the valley from where the trio would be approaching.
The slaves and criminals who worked the mine, when they weren’t laboring, were kept in two long rows of steel cages on the same side the trio was approaching from. The cages were inside the ring of guard posts, one on top of the other, and it was a sheer drop from the rim of the pit to the tops of the first row of cages of at least five idlesides. The drop from the cages and the single road leading to and from them was to the bottom of the pit.
Justin focused on the conversation more than usual as now he needed to have it memorized. Every word – every spoken thought – that Tor could provide, Justin committed to memory.
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A weekly blog updating on Fridays with quick personal blurbs about me, as in what's going on during my life as an Author and mom, and that doles out my short stories and novellas in bite-sized parts for everyone to read for free!